25 February 2014
Teachers and parents across Australia are encouraged to play a computer game developed by University of the Sunshine Coast researchers to increase understanding of child sexual abuse, including issues such as grooming and disclosure.
‘Orbit’ is a sexual abuse prevention program involving a computer game and a website with resources for families and educators.
While ‘Orbit’ is designed for use in schools by children aged between eight and 10, its USC creators also urge adults to go to the website to expand their knowledge and gain tools to help protect children.
Colleen Stieler-Hunt, a PhD student with USC’s Engage Research Lab which developed the program with counsellors, psychologists, social workers and educators, said it contained practical information on how to keep children safe.
Ms Stieler-Hunt said the ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse indicated the extent of the problem in society.
“Adults are responsible for protecting children, so adults need to understand the nature of sexual abuse and how to respond to disclosures. ‘Orbit’ presents these serious concepts in a sensitive way,” she said.
“This program is freely available to the public and aims to help people understand the process of sexual abuse. Sudden attacks are rare. Perpetrators are more likely to use grooming techniques over time.
“In addition, the culture of secrecy around child sexual abuse means that many adults don’t have this understanding. This plays into the hands of perpetrators.”
‘Orbit’ was launched at USC last October as part of the annual Day for Daniel. The program is supported by the Telstra Foundation, Queensland Police Service, the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and Laurel House.
Ms Stieler-Hunt said 75 schools across Queensland and the nation had so far signed up to download the game and evaluate it.
“The feedback has been very positive and we’re about to start a large-scale evaluation,” she said.
“I’ve interviewed students who have played the game from beginning to end and I’m impressed with what they learned. They know what sexual abuse is, that it’s not a child’s fault, and that they should tell adults in their support network.”
USC’s Engage Research Lab, led by Associate Professor of Interactive Digital Media Christian Jones, is an industry award-winning team using technology to engage with the community on social issues.
— Julie Schomberg